If the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic isn’t showing signs of stopping isn’t scary enough, the fact that now almost all schools are closed across the country has left parents in a complete panic. Because whether you work outside the home, (or work from home), having to keep kids from being bored during the Coronavirus quarantine can feel like a full-time job — you know, on top of the one you already have.
That’s when you need to keep calm and form a plan of action. Because, frankly, winging it for the next few weeks is only going to result in a more chaotic and overly stressed household, which no one wants. It doesn’t mean, though, that you have to have every single second scheduled, because that could drive you crazy, too.
These experts offered tips on how to keep kids from being bored during the Coronavirus quarantine — without losing your own damn mind. You may realize that, with some structure and guidance, you might actually come to find that this time of social distancing actually will bring you closer to those you love the most.
There’s no better way to keep your kids busy than by bonding with a book. “Check out eBooks from your local library, dig through your bookshelves for things they haven’t read yet, or books they haven’t read in a long time,” says Frank Milner, the president of Tutor Doctor, the one-to-one leading in-home tutoring company. “Remember, anything can be reading material – comic books, magazines, websites, and cereal boxes all count too.”
Maintain A Daily Routine
Sure, since the quarantine started, it might feel like every day is a Saturday to your kids. But you have some real 9-5 work to get done, so you’ll need to set the tone for the day. “Keep your regular schedule of bedtime and rising, meals, etc., and work some learning activities into your day,” advises Miner. “This will help them better engage with at home learning and will make it easier to return to their regular schedule when things return to normal.”
Schedule Work Time
Listen, you have to work. So why not work together — literally? When you need to plow through a project, set your child up next to you and break out a bunch of activities that will keep him busy. “There are all kinds of online learning games that students can use to practice their skills,” says Milner. “Worksheets, learning activities and games are all easily accessible online.” So set a schedule for when you can both work together without being bothered since your child will then know what’s expected of them during that time block. But be realistic about how much time you might truly have in order to get work done. “Most elementary aged students start to lose focus after 20 minutes working on a single activity, so work within your child’s limits,” says Milner.
While you should maintain social distancing for the sake of your family and others, there’s nothing wrong with everyone getting a little fresh air. So whether it’s your backyard or your local park, plan some time for play. “Typically, students get at least half an hour of outside time a day at school,” says Milner. “This gives them a chance to burn off energy, get some exercise, and reset their minds for more learning.” So get them dressed and out the door for some much-needed Vitamin D—and the chance for everyone to stretch their legs and enjoy the sun and fun. Bonus points if you turn the outdoors into a classroom and teach your kiddos about nature as you play.
Know When It’s Time For A Tutor
Let’s face it: it’s probably been a minute since you were last in school. And kids are being taught very differently from how we were. So if your natural inclination is to “carry the one”, you might need to consider hiring a tutor to help your child (and you) with his online assignments. It will help your child with their studies without giving you flashbacks about high school geometry.
Set Up Boundaries
With everyone living in close quarters day in and day out, it’s easy for nerves to become frayed. To avoid making it an even more stressful situation, Dr. Steven Rosenberg, PhD, a psychotherapist, advises setting up some boundaries. “Go to a room that can be closed off from the common areas,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “Put up a PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.” That way, you can (hopefully) get some work done without having to yell at your kids for always occupying your home office.
Keep Toys Fresh
Although your daily goal might be to put away all the toys, that’s probably not happening. But now that your kids are looking at the same L.O.L and Thomas the Train toys every day, you may want to revisit clean up time. “Don’t have all your toys out at once; instead, put most of them away,” advises Dr. Samantha Radford, PhD, a child health expert and founder of Evidence-based Mommy. “Once a week, put away the current toys and bring out different ones. Toy rotations definitely keep things interesting.”
Plan Fun Activities
Do a quick Pinterest search and you’ll soon see that there are tons of fun (and fairly easy) activities that you can do with your kids on the cheap. “Everyone needs fun and down time, especially if emotions are running high and/or boredom may be setting in,” says Milner. “Play games, tell jokes, do some messy science experiments, and enjoy your time together. You can often turn this fun into a learning experience as well.” Although the activity may not take too long, you’ll create lasting memories with your kiddos, and it will keep kids from being bored during the Coronavirus quarantine.
Turn On The TV
Ideally, you don’t want the TV to be your child’s babysitter, but things are different now—and you need all the help you can get. “There is a lot of quality content out there- both in TV shows and apps,” Dr. Colleen Russo Johnson, PhD., a children’s media expert, tells Celebrity Parents. “Some products are even offering special extended trials/free content for parents to use during these quarantined times. And a lot of it is educational — you may be surprised at the things your child learns!”
So while you don’t have to plunk your kid down in front of cartoons all day, there are lots of educational (and fun!) programs for them to watch. PBS KIDS Amazon Prime Video channel has hundreds of entertaining programs that children of all ages can watch and learn with, including episodes from the Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, Peg + Cat, and the classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Or turn on Tubi, which is the world’s largest free ad-supported streaming service. Tubi has an entire dedicated kids section with access to more 1,200 age-appropriate movies and TV episodes, totaling some 5,000 hours of content. Current kids titles include Norm of the North, Imagine That with Eddie Murphy, Ella Enchanted with Anne Hathaway, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and more.
Although the Coronavirus quarantine might feel like a curse, it can actually be a big blessing for you and your family. “This can be a time that can really be positive,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “Have meaningful conversations, and hug each other frequently. Bonding is a wonderful thing. So embrace the closeness and enjoy being together.”